When Canon first announced their two f11 telephotos a few years back to much skeptical fanfare from the youtube crowd, I remember thinking “It ain’t all bad.” Much as an f/2.8 or f/4 lens serves to keep ISO down, at closer distances where details are more possible, DOF is way too shallow to get the whole critter in focus. F/11 can do that.
And with stabilization to enable slower shutter speeds wherever practical, the noise factor is mitigated. Further, reach and decent contrast trump less reach of any quality level where capturing details is concerned.
It wasn’t much surprise then, when shooting targets (finally in some good light) with the RF 100-400mm this morning, I could see that aside from lacking a bit of native contrast, it can resolve with the best of them. The outing also confirmed my suspicion that the current copy is indeed better than the previous one. Perhaps Canon, encouraged by the very favorable reception of the lens, found a way to tweak more performance out of it.
So, in the space of two days I’ve gone from once again being industrious enough to head into the field with a 3+ kilogram setup to being a lazy shooter carrying less than half that and relying on autofocus.
Maybe if those marvelous optics of yesteryear had modern coatings, stabilization, and in-camera image processing adjustments, they’d still be the best options available.
And that’s the point. They don’t. And they aren’t.